Almost a year ago it was announced that the Big Ten and Big East would launch the inaugural 2015 Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual event with eight games between the two conferences set to run through 2022. Well now all eight games for what is being more commonly referred to as the Big Ten / Big East Challenge have been set and it's time to take a look at what we have on the docket. So with that being said, here are three thoughts on the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games.
1. The field of Big Ten teams is underwhelming.
The reality of having only eight games meant the Big Ten would have six teams not included, while the Big East would keep two teams from participating. While the two conferences have essentially circumvented this somewhat with several teams squaring off in the regular season outside of the challenge, it still doesn't change the fact that the inaugural year here is decisively underwhelming.
Of the six Big Ten teams not participating here include Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Minnesota (oh, and Northwestern as well). Wisconsin may be set to rebuild next season, but they've been the face of the conference recently and their exclusion makes little sense (even if they've routinely played Marquette on their own). Then you have a group of teams in Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue, all of which could compete in the Big Ten race, not included. The end result is the Big Ten field here is relatively weak and lacks a lot of the top Big Ten teams.
The idea for the Gavitt Tipoff Games, outside of another conference showdown ($), is to increase interest in the first two months of the season, traditionally a stretch of boring and repetitive games between power conference opponents and mid-major cupcakes. Taking that into consideration, it makes no sense to keep out so many quality Big Ten teams here. If the two conferences want this challenge to work, why not field the best set of teams possible? Instead the Big Ten sees teams like Rutgers, Penn State and Nebraska included. Yikes. I know they'll have to rotate teams in and out throughout the years, but it would have made sense to stack the field to kickoff the event in it's first year.
2. Future scheduling needs to improve, but at least we've got a few solid games.
Maryland and Georgetown is the obvious choice for the best game included here, with Georgetown routinely being a NCAA Tournament caliber team and Maryland possibly being an early favorite in the Big Ten race. That's a great match and should provide an enjoyable game. And if Michigan bounces back next season then there should be a solid showdown between the Wolverines and Xavier, even if Xavier and Ohio State would have been another worthwhile watch. But the rest of the field? Underwhelming (the main theme with this event so far).
Nebraska at Villanova? The Cornhuskers weren't a good team this past season and lose basically everyone of value and now they travel to a good Villanova team in what will likely be a one-sided affair. Then we've got bottom feeders Penn State and DePaul facing off, Rutgers set to likely get ran out of the gym by St. Johns (at least it makes sense based on location), while teams like Indiana and Iowa draw opponents that they should both be considerably better than. Past the Maryland-Georgetown and Michigan-Xavier game the only potential worthwhile draw is Illinois and Providence and that's because the two teams should be evenly matched. Of course that Penn State and DePaul game should be competitive, but most of these games aren't exactly creating appeal here, which is one of the main intentions of conference challenges like this. Considering a lot of the college basketball fan base will still likely be busy with college football, a lot of these games simply fail to create much interest for college basketball in November.
3. It's a shame that we're not getting Indiana versus Marquette.
Indiana gets...Creighton? The Hoosiers, who should rebound nicely in 2015-16, get paired up with an underwhelming and poor Creighton team that tied for last in the Big East. There was some murmuring that the matchups for the event would be based on parity, so this game seems out of place (not as bad as Villanova and Nebraska, though). Of course the bigger disappointment was Indiana not drawing Marquette. While Butler would have made sense considering the geographical factor, the fact that Indiana routinely plays Butler in the Crossroads Classic made that understandable. However, an Indiana and Marquette game would have made so much sense considering the fact that Tom Crean used to coach at Marquette and former Hoosier Luke Fischer transferred to Marquette, becoming a key player for the Golden Eagles. Instead we got Indiana and Creighton.